Image of Semple, James

Semple, James

b. January 5, 1798, in Green County, Kentucky; d. December 20, 1866, in Elsah, Illinois. James Semple moved to Edwardsville, Illinois, in 1818 and then to Missouri in 1820. He returned to Kentucky to study law, and after admission to the Kentucky bar, Semple practiced law in Clinton County, Kentucky. In 1827, he moved to Edwardsville, Illinois, and continued the practice of law. Semple was a brigadier general in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War (1831-1832). He was elected to the state legislature in 1832 and served as attorney general in 1833 and 1834. Semple was speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1834 to 1838. In 1837, President Van Buren appointed Semple to the post of Minister to Colombia, a position he held until 1842. The following year, the Illinois legislature appointed Semple to the Illinois Supreme Court to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Sidney Breese. Semple resigned from the court after only a few months to accept an appointment to the United States Senate upon the death of Illinois Senator Samuel McRoberts. During his brief tenure, Semple heard seven cases in which Abraham Lincoln was an attorney. After the expiration of his term in 1847, Semple retired to Edwardsville, Illinois.
W. T. Norton, Centennial History of Madison County and its People (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), 1157-60; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News Company, 1879), 218-19; John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1899), 1:41-42. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.